The European Commission on Monday lowered its forecast of Czech economic growth for this year to 4.7 percent in its regular spring forecast. In autumn it predicted a 5 percent increase. The EC also considerably raised the estimate of consumer price growth for 2008 from 3.8 percent in November to 6.2 percent. Last year, the Czech economy grew by a record 6.5 percent while inflation amounted to 2.8 percent.
The signing of a Czech-American agreement on the siting of a US tracking radar on Czech soil is likely to be postponed to a later date; the American Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will not arrive in Prague next Monday as previously planned, the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Zuzana Opletalová has said. Mrs Rice was originally scheduled to attend a conference on missile defence in Prague on May 5. Along with the main treaty, the Czech Republic and the US are also negotiating on the SOFA treaty, which specifies the presence of US troops in the country.
The world’s largest software producer Microsoft is in talks to buy the biggest Czech Internet web site Seznam.cz, the daily Hospodářské noviny reported on Monday. The founder and owner of Seznam.cz Ivo Lukačovič is to meet Microsoft head Steve Ballmer, who will be lecturing in Prague in May. Mr Lukačovič has denied the news on the sale.
The Czech government decided on Monday to earmark 115 billion crowns to finance Czech participation in civilian missions of the European Union and other international organisations this year, which is three times more than last year. The highest sum, altogether 14 million crowns, will go to the Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan and 36 million crowns to finance civilian projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia and Palestine.
Czech members of Greenpeace on Monday occupied grounds in the Brdy military zone southwest of Prague where a US tracking radar is to be installed. Some 20 activists have put up tents at the site in protest against the planned stationing of the radar on Czech soil. According to the Greenpeace spokesperson they plan to stay there “as long as possible”. The activists have not been given an entrance permit by the military. Greenpeace members will provide more information on their anti-radar campaign at a news conference scheduled to take place on Monday.
Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer will submit a plan to curb possible illegal migration from Mongolia and Iraq to the Czech Republic. The project is part of the Interior Ministry’s policy aimed at cooperation with the countries from which larger numbers of illegal migrants come. A pilot project that should be launched this year includes consultancy and support for the legal migration of the Mongolian workforce and training migration management in Iraq.
A total of 267 Czechs have applied for asylum in Canada in five months since the visa duty was abolished in October last year, according to the data released by the Canadian Embassy. Canada is not planning to re-introduce the visa requirements for Czech citizens, the embassy has said. Canada first lifted visa requirements for Czech citizens shortly after the fall of communism, but reintroduce them in 1997 in reaction to a flood of asylum seekers from the Czech Republic, mainly Romanies, on the grounds that Czechs were abusing the Canadian welfare system.
In related news, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said that the Czech Republic and the United States will sign both treaties on the US radar base on Czech soil in early June. The American Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was originally scheduled to visit Prague next week, but has cancelled her visit. The two countries have therefore agreed to sign both documents together, Mr Topolánek added.
Police broke up a skinhead concert attended by around seventy people in Velký Beranov, in South-East Bohemia, on Saturday night. Over 100 officers were monitoring the event and intervened when one of the participating bands performed a song with anti-Semitic lyrics. Nine people were detained for questioning. It is not yet clear whether any of them will be charged. The rock concert was presented as a private birthday party.
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